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Flash Floods

If you have been reading the newspapers or watching television, you would know that currently Kashmir is reeling under the worst floods in the last five decades. Environmentalists say last year's devastating floods in Uttarakhand (which happened due to a cloudburst), in which thousands were killed, and the catastrophic flash flood in Kashmir, both have the same cause - urbanisation, reduced forest cover and the erratic monsoons.

What are floods?

A flood is a natural disaster, which is caused by the overflowing of water onto land that is not usually submerged. When too much rain, brought by storms or strong winds and falls, that cannot be absorbed by the soil, results in floods. Rivers burst their banks and the water spills onto the land. Floods occur at irregular intervals and vary in size and duration. Floods are dangerous and can wipe away entire towns, farms, trees, animals, bridges, cars etc.

Types of Floods

Flash Floods

A flash flood is sudden or quick flooding that is caused by a sudden cloudburst or thunderstorm. It occurs when floodwaters rise rapidly with no warning. They often occur when huge amounts of water fall in a short time. Flash floods mostly happen in mountainous areas as is evident from the floods in Uttarakhand and Kashmir, where steep slopes cause the water to travel at high speed.

River Floods

Rivers floods happen when rivers and streams cannot carry away all the extra water that falls as rain or comes from melting snow. The water increases the water level of the rivers/streams and overflows onto normally dry land. Floods destroy farmland, wash away people's houses and drown people and animals. This eventually leads to the flooding of towns and cities. What’s happening in Kashmir is because River Jhelum has been flowing four feet above danger mark in Srinagar.

Coastal Floods

This type of floods can be caused by strong winds blowing waves onto the land. Hurricanes and major storms produce most coastal floods. Very high tides and tsunamis also flood the coasts.

Man-made Floods

Sometimes flooding may be cause due to man-made issues, like a poorly or weakly constructed dam. Dams are man-made blocks or barriers built to hold water flowing down from a highland. Dams are often built to generate hydroelectricity, divert water for irrigation and provide water for towns and cities. Sometimes if the dam is not strong enough, excess water held up in the dam can break and overflow the area, causing the area to flood.

Natural disasters are a way of life. They are unpredictable and can’t be avoided. People can, however, deal with the effects if they are well-prepared. When floodwaters rise slowly, people have time to prepare themselves. They can move property to a higher ground, or build barriers to keep the water out of their homes. Sometimes the water rises quickly and people and cars get caught in the flood. Water gets into buildings causing a lot of damage, things are washed away, and some people are even left homeless.

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